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Ofra Magidor (Oxford): “Reflections on Reasons”

2 December 2015, 5:30 pm7:00 pm

Abstract: In this paper (co-authored with John Hawthorne), we offer a series reflections on the rather complex ideology of reasons.

We start by introducing some common notions in the reasons literature: normative reasons; possessed normative reasons; and motivating reasons. In the first part of the paper we argue for a series of theses concerning these notions: that the normative reason construction is factive, that possession of a normative reason requires knowledge, and that ascriptions of possession of reasons can be factored into a normative reason construction and a possession claim. One important theme that runs through these discussions is the following: there is typical range of cases where, since an agent does not know a pertinent worldly fact that might otherwise serve as a motivating reason, one might be tempted to fall-back on describing an agent’s motivating reasons using a psychological ascription (e.g., in the case where an agent is hallucinating a tiger and runs, we might revert to ‘Her reason for running was that she thought there was a tiger in the room’). We maintain that in many such cases the psychological fact cited is not after all a motivating reason, and indeed that in such cases the agent often acts for no motivating reason.

In the second part of the paper we turn to compare two prominent views concerning the nature of normative reasons: Kearns and Star’s view of reasons as evidence that one ought to phi, and John Broome’s view of reasons as explanations for why one ought to phi. While both views have significant merit, we argue that they also face some non-trivial challenges, and discuss a range of considerations that can help to adjudicate between these two conceptions of reasons.


2 December 2015
5:30 pm – 7:00 pm
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LAK 2.06
Lakatos Building
London, WC2A 2AE United Kingdom
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